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Our idols had clay feet

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By John Pawlak

I remember back in school learning about all sorts of famous people - presidents, kings, explorers, inventors, military heroes - an endless list of amazing people who did amazing things.
 But history books only contain what history book authors write.  These larger-than-life idols were people, flesh and blood and subject to the same weaknesses and faults that befall even the most insignificant of us.
Speaking as a rather insignificant entity, I find this fact strangely comforting.
Now, what better American hero than the inventor of the light bulb, the motion picture, the phonograph.  Thomas Alva Edison, American scientist!
When introducing electrical systems to city officials, there was intense debate over whether networks should run on DC (direct current  — Edison’s preference) or AC (alternating current —  George Westinghouse’s and Nikola Tesla’s design).  Edison waged a vicious publicity attack against the opposing view to “demonstrate the dangerous nature of AC.”  To accomplish this, he used AC to electrocute an elephant (along with several stray dogs and cats, and some cattle and horses).
Yeah, he killed a bunch of animals to try to win favor for his “more safe” DC design.  Not something I remember learning in history class.


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